Make space. Find peace. Feel joy.

Decluttering Your Home: A review + giveaway

23 November 2015

Decluttering Your Home - review and giveaway

My friend, the amazing organizer Geralin Thomas, has written a fabulous new book, Decluttering Your Home: Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets. The 176-page book, published by Firefly Books, is heavily illustrated with beautiful photos and drawings.

The publisher provided me with a copy to review and give away to one lucky reader! (See giveaway details below.)

I need to start this review with a disclosure: Geralin is a good friend of mine, as regular readers of the blog know. So I’m admittedly biased. But, really, even if I had never met Geralin, I think I’d be gaga over this book.

After an overview chapter on clutter and the hold it can have over us, the book is divided into the following sections:

  • Household clutter (divided by space in the house)
  • Digital clutter
  • Calendar clutter
  • Maintenance
  • Checklists and planners

Here is a photo of an interior spread in the Kitchen chapter of the book.

Decluttering Your Home review & giveaway

Geralin has been a professional organizer since 2002. It’s abundantly apparent in this book that she knows her stuff. The book is full of bite-sized information and suggestions for every area in the house. It’s richly illustrated, making it really appealing to read and very accessible.

The information in the book is a wonderful combination of practical and aspirational. She covers things that are in every home (like junk drawers) to things that I probably could only aspire to (a converted armoire-style storage cabinet with custom-made drawers to act as a pantry). So in that way, it’s a little like Pinterest!

In the book, Geralin offers specific suggestions on decluttering, as well as fantastic organizing and storage tips. So if you’re not dealing with a whole lot of clutter but just want to fine tune your organizing, you’ll love this. If you are dealing with clutter, it’ll be a godsend. I love the chapter on maintenance, which covers creating habits and also offers advice on coping with backsliding. And the final chapter—full of checklists of chores, tasks, and even wardrobe and meal planners—is really useful.

Would you like a free copy? Enter the giveaway!

To be entered in the giveaway, you must leave a comment here. Each commenter will receive one entry. After you’ve entered with a comment, you may get additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway (be sure and use @janinea in the tweet, so that I see it) and/or writing on the wall or commenting at the Peace of Mind Organizing Facebook page. The giveaway will end on Sunday, November 29 at noon central time and I’ll announce (and inform) the winner on Monday, November 30.

Worth repeating (again): Why I'm a professional organizer

19 November 2015

In 2013, I wrote a post that explained why I became a professional organizer. I’m celebrating the tenth anniversary of Peace of Mind Organizing, and the works continues to pay off. I feel so fortunate to still enjoy my work after ten years in business. If you’ve ever wondered what a PO gets out of her work—which to some people looks decidedly unglamorous—read on.

Often when I meet folks who learn what I do for a living, they’re keen on learning how I became a professional organizer. I explain the training I took and how I went about starting my business. (That’s all detailed in my blog post, Are you interested in becoming a professional organizer?)

But seldom am I asked why I became a PO, rather than how. I thought I’d spend a little time today exploring that question.

In my observation, there are two sorts of folks who become professional organizers:

  • Those who do it because organizing comes so naturally to them. Being organized is like breathing. It’s their passion. So why not make a living doing it?
  • Those who enter the field because of their own struggles in getting and staying organized. They’ve spent a lifetime seeking solutions for themselves and want to share those solutions with others.

I fall into that second camp. As I’ve mentioned over and over, I’m a naturally messy person. I’m pretty organized in my space and I’m definitely organized inside my head, but I’m a bit messy and unruly. I sought solutions for my time management and clutter issues throughout my life and I learned a lot. I felt it was time to start sharing.

When I first contemplated starting my business, I was a freelance writer. I’d been writing about pets for ten years and had written hundreds of articles on various aspects of pet care. I’d had seven books published (a couple of which are no longer available) and contributed to several others. I was working on my last book, an ill-fated venture called Jane Goodall’s Return to Gombe co-written with the famed primatologist. The process of that book about killed me (and was never published) and I knew that in order to get through writing that manuscript I had to know it was going to be my last book. So I started looking for other things to do.

As I considered becoming a PO, I thought of several very important things that being a professional organizer would offer that being a freelance writer was not delivering:

  • The ability to help people directly and tangibly
  • Respect for my expertise (I was being very disrespected during the whole Goodall book experience)
  • Payment at the time of service

That was very appealing and a big part of why I became a PO. But why do I keep doing it, now that I’m in my eighth year of business?

Those initial three reasons did prove to be powerful. In addition, here are some other things I’ve found to so rewarding:

  • I get to help people transform their lives.
  • I help people feel better about themselves as I normalize (and empathize with) their messy behaviors.
  • I can help my clients go from striving (and failing) to be perfectly organized to reveling in being organized enough.
  • I get to effect vast, fast change by bringing in a team of organizers to help my clients.

Being a professional organizer is life-changing work for me. And its results can be life changing for my clients. It is easily the most rewarding work I’ve done in a career that’s spanned almost three decades. And as long as it continues to be this rewarding, I’ll keep doing it.

Instant gratification vs. the joy of anticipation

16 November 2015

Instant gratification vs. the joy of anticipation

My husband and I are getting a standard poodle puppy on December 13. Our beloved poodle, Kirby, passed away on March 1 and since then, for the first time in 23 years, we’ve been living without at least one poodle in our family.

I’m delighted that’s about to change. (I was ready before Barry.) In September, after much deliberation, we made the decision to buy a poodle puppy from a responsible breeder and we contacted Kirby’s breeder. It was interesting timing. She had a litter about to go to their new families and a puppy buyer had fallen through. She offered us the opportunity to buy a puppy immediately. And she said that she wouldn’t be breeding again for awhile, so she gave us the name of a breeder she has mentored, who had had a breeding just a few weeks before. (That breeder is Dianne Janczewski of Clifton Standard Poodles.)

At that moment, we had to decide whether we would buy one of puppies immediately available or wait until December for our puppy (or much later, if that breeding didn’t result in a pregnancy). It was a tough decision, but we decided to wait.

I am so glad we did! We found out in late September that there was a pregnancy and from that point forward I’ve been enjoying putting plans into place for this puppy. (That’s a picture of our puppy or one of his littermates at the age of four weeks.) I’ve made travel arrangements (I’ll be picking him up in Virginia) and a veterinary appointment. I’ve signed up for puppy kindergarten (and gone to a no-dogs-allowed introductory class). I’ve purchased and read puppy training books to refresh my knowledge. This week I’m going to shop for some puppy supplies.

And I’ve enjoyed the freedom of being dog-less, knowing that as soon as the puppy arrives my husband and I will be sleep-deprived and home bound.

If we had taken the route of instant gratification, we would have missed out on all the fun anticipation. Ours lives would have been turned upside down as we scrambled to get the supplies together and arrangements made. We would have been stressed and the puppy probably would have been stressed as well. (Granted, we would have been house training in September, rather than December, but that’s a trade off I’m willing to make.)

For my personality, careful planning and anticipation is part of the enjoyment of something new. It can be hard to delay gratification but often, as in this case, it pays off.

The joy of finishing the long-delayed project

13 November 2015

This past weekend, I experienced the thrill of an empty basement in my own home. My husband and I live in a two-family home built in 1908. (We used to rent out the downstairs apartment, but now we live in the whole thing.) It has a scary unfinished basement that I joked was straight out of Silence of the Lambs. The limestone foundation walls and plaster-and-horsehair dropped ceiling shed dust onto the floor that is so bad we have special “basement shoes” so we don’t track dust around the house.

It’s a big basement and, like so many other people, we would just take stuff down there, storing it willy nilly, rather than making the decision to dispose of it. The washer and dryer are in the basement, so I actually had to look at the unruly mess at least weekly.

In 2009, we hired a professional organizer, Karel Worley, to help clear out that basement. The results were pretty spectacular but after six years of not changing our dumping behavior it had started to look cluttered again. Then matters got worse when the basement floor started heaving due to hydrostatic pressure. So we had no choice but to clear out our basement for repairs and renovation.

The work started this week, so this past weekend, we did a thorough clean-out of the basement. It felt so good!! There were many items down there left by the sellers in 1992 that we didn’t deal with in our 2009 purge. There was stuff in the little under-the-porch storage room the we didn’t even know were there, like the sellers’ college textbooks. There were also some solid six-panel doors and glass-paned cabinet doors. We sold those to neighbors and netted $225.

For four hours, Barry and I went through the stuff. We kept so little that it all fit into the two under-the-porch storage rooms, which will not be affected by the renovation.

I took a carload of stuff to Goodwill. Then we had 1-800-GOT-JUNK come and take away an entire truckload of junk. It was thrilling!

The next day we had Paint Away come and take away the dozens of paint cans (and some other old household products) that had been languishing in the basement. I had no idea there were so many paint cans down there, because they were scattered in little pockets of cans all over the place. Working with both 1-800-GOT-JUNK and Paint Away was a fantastic experience.

At the end of that weekend, I was practically giddy with the joy of getting that stuff out of the house. I didn’t realize how much it had been weighing me down for 23 years. I almost felt like a physical load had been taken off my shoulders.

At the risk of embarrassing myself, here’s how the junky side of the basement looked before we decluttered.

And here’s a picture at the end of the weekend.

This week, that wall on the left of the photos was removed to open the two sides of the basement and now it looks completely different. The drop ceiling was also removed. The next step is removing the floor, adding a waterproofing system, then replacing the floor. Then we’ll have the walls painted with waterproofing paint, improve the lighting and do some more sprucing up. We won’t have a finished basement (we don’t need one), but we’ll have a dry basement that we can wear our street shoes in. It’s very exciting.

The first step to the whole process was decluttering. Isn’t that always the way? I find that decluttering (physical or mental or emotional) tends to be the first step toward progress of any sort.

It's my 9th blogiversary!

10 November 2015

Happy blogiversary to Organize Your Family!

November 10, 2006 was a big day for Peace of Mind Organizing. It was the day I published my first blog post. (That post was called “What is organized?”.) 1,080 blog posts later, I’m celebrating my 9th blogiversary.

I’ll be forever grateful to Nora Brown, who designed this website, for encouraging me to start a blog. Back then I may never even have read a blog.

Blogging has required discipline, creativity, and effort, but all that has been paid back in spades. My blog has allowed me to connect with folks I would not otherwise have known (and vice versa), from all over the world. It has helped Peace of Mind Organizing be in the top of the search engine rankings for folks looking to hire a professional organizer in St. Louis. It allows my clients to get to know me before they hire me. It establishes my expertise. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I like blogging so much that I started another blog, Organize Your Family History, in 2012. I love that blog too.

Blogging is part of my life and this blog feels like a friend. I’m darned proud to celebrate and acknowledge my 9th blogiversary!

Worth repeating: Shifting your perspective by shifting your furniture

5 November 2015

Nearly three years ago, I moved my desk 90 degrees. The impact was immediate and amazing! I’m still loving the placement of my desk, so I thought I’d repeat the post I wrote about it in 2013.

I’m not somebody who switches furniture around. I know there are people who consider that fun, but I’m not one of them. I typically agonize over the placement of furniture and once it’s done, that’s that.

I’ve been in this home office (in what was a bedroom of our house) for 12 years. I rearranged the furniture in it in 2005, after a feng shui consult.

This year, I decided that another change was important. I’d heard a speaker say, “Change your space as you change” and that made an impact on me.

Trouble was, I didn’t have a clue as to how to change my space. (Space planning is not one of my strengths.) Then I read the description of the Workspace and Studio Redesign program from Jen Hofmann of Inspired Home Office. That really resonated with me and I signed up.

We had three terrific phone sessions. She helped me create a vision for my space and realize that what I was after was a clean space, clear of non-essential items. I decluttered my desk and then the rest of the office, to great effect. At our second session, she suggested I try the desk rotated 90 degrees, so that the left edge, rather than the front of the desk, was against the wall. She also suggested I rotate it another 90 degrees so my back was against the wall.

I got out the furniture movers, unplugged everything and gave it a try. I immediately liked the first iteration, the 90-degree rotation. I tried the 180-degree rotation, but it did not feel right at all.

So with the desk turned 90 degrees, so that I’m now facing the door and a set of bookshelves, I set about plugging everything back in. I realized that if I moved a fabric-covered computer desk upon which a laser printer and scanner rested so that its back was to the front of my desk, I could hide all my cables.

Oh my goodness! My quest for better cable management was complete! I can’t tell you how exciting it is that my cable mess is all but gone.

Here’s a before photo, taken after the initial declutter, of what my desk was like against the wall.

Desk after decluttering

Here’s a photo I took today to give you a sense of the new placement of the desk.

My new desk position from the side

And here’s a photo taken from the door, to show how relatively cord-free the space now is.

My new desk position from the front - no cords!

It’s been just over a week and I’ve found this shift quite interesting. I love having a fresh perspective on my office. Above my monitor I see the top two shelves of my bookshelves, so I moved to the top shelf the copies of the books I’ve written. It reminds me of my accomplishments and gives me confidence to glance up and see them.

To my left, on the wall, underneath the fabric-covered bulletin board that was already there, I mounted a magnetic strip so that I can post my daily task list and my weekly social media checklist. I also mounted my bingo board on the wall next to the bulletin board. I store the magnets for covering my bingo squares on the magnetic strip. And I hang my bluetooth headset from a hook on the magnetic strip.

Behind me, on the radiator in a desktop organizer, are the items I used to keep close at hand on my desk. I feel like my desk has become a cockpit, with everything right where I need it.

Since everything has a place, I’ve had absolutely no difficulty putting things away. My desk is effortlessly clear at the end of each workday and, pretty much, throughout the workday. It may just be the novelty of the situation, but I’m really enjoying how easy it is for me to keep this clean. There’s just no extraneous stuff.

Same goes for the floor of my office, which traditionally gets pretty easily cluttered. I now have less floor space to clutter up and it hasn’t even been a bit tempting to put something on the floor instead of putting it away.

I did have one little problem caused by turning the desk that I addressed in a stroke of brilliance (if I say so myself). I’ll describe in Wednesday’s blog post.

I’m still in awe of the difference this change has made. I love no longer facing the wall. I love the fact that everything is so neat and that I’d rid myself of the extraneous. I love that everything in the room represents who I am and where I’m going, rather than who I’ve been.

This is powerful stuff. If you’ve been tempted to switch things up in your office, I urge you to give it a try!

Peace of Organizing in the news

2 November 2015

I was delighted when I was asked to organize the pantry of St. Louis Magazine’s dining editor, George Mahe, for an article for the Winter issue of the glossy newsstand magazine, St. Louis At Home.

I spent a couple of hours with George, along with the writer and photographer (you can bet I put them to work), in his lovely, if petite, kitchen. George is serious about food and his pantry was already pretty great before I got my hands on it. I helped him take it up a notch in those two hours and the terrific writer, Jeannette Cooperman did a great job of capturing what happens in a pantry-organizing session.

The result was full-page article (dominated by a picture of me!) in the current issue of this glossy magazine. Here’s a photo of the article:

Pantry Organizing

The online version gives more of a blow by blow of the session and it shows a set of before-and-after photos of the pantry, if you’re curious. You can see that his pantry already had it going on, especially his pull-down spice rack which was working really well for him. Even well-organized pantries have expired foods in them.

This article was especially sweet for me, as I celebrate my business’s tenth anniversary. Ten years ago, I had my very first magazine interview as organizer, for an article that was published in the January-February 2006 issue of St. Louis At Home. I’m happy to say that magazine interviews have become less stressful as the years go by!

Edited to add: I wrote this Monday and then on Tuesday received a link to a profile of me on the Kahoots blog. (Kahoots is a contacts management app.)

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